Gifford Losing Top Man

Saturday, February 20, 2016
Randolph — Administrator Joseph Woodin plans to leave Gifford Medical Center in May after 17 years at the helm to become chief executive at a Massachusetts hospital owned by the giant Partners HealthCare chain, Gifford announced Friday.

In a news release, Woodin said he left for personal reasons.

“In the last three years I lost my wife, and then my mother, and it has been a time of personal reflection for me,” he said. “It’s the right time for me to move forward in life and pursue another opportunity.”

The decision was “bittersweet,” Woodin said in a brief telephone interview. “I really love this place,” he said, adding that it was “uniquely special.”

Gifford’s Board of Directors will name an interim administrator and conduct a national search for a permanent replacement to succeed Woodin, whose compensation package was $477,000 in 2013, according to the hospital’s most recent publicly disclosed tax returns. The search is expected to take about six to nine months.

Woodin said his most important accomplishment while at Gifford has been the hospital’s “financial stability,” which enabled it to invest in programs, equipment, staff and facilities.

His biggest frustration at Gifford came from Vermont’s “very expensive and somewhat exhausting” efforts at health care reform, which included the construction of the Vermont Health Connect website, a problem-plagued insurance marketplace, and efforts to build a so-called “single-payer” health insurance system, Woodin said. Those efforts had involved “too much effort for very little return,” he said.

At Gifford, Woodin oversees a multifaceted operation that includes a 25-bed hospital and a 30-bed nursing home, employs 600 and has clinics in White River Junction, Wilder and Sharon, as well as two locations outside the Upper Valley. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2014, Gifford posted revenue of $64.3 million, which exceeded expenses by $5 million.

Gifford sits roughly equidistant from two large teaching hospitals: Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon and the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. Under Woodin’s leadership, Gifford did not join its peers in the trend of affiliation with larger medical centers.

“I think the affiliation process tends to cycle,” Woodin said Friday. “I imagine Gifford will probably remain independent years down the road.”

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the Oak Bluffs, Mass., facility Woodin soon will lead, chose a different path. It entered into a clinical affiliation agreement with Partners in 1998 and was acquired by Mass General, which is a unit of Partners, in 2007.

At Martha’s Vineyard, Woodin will take the reins from CEO Tim Walsh, 69, who five months ago announced his plans to retire in April. Walsh, who has held the top job at that hospital for 13 years, received total compensation of $511,000 in 2013, according to the tax return of Partners HealthCare.

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital incorporated in 1921, and opened the doors of a new $50-million hospital building in 2010. Funding for the new facility was raised from such A-list donors as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and television home repair personality Bob Vila, the Cape Cod Times reported. MVH now has four stars on the five-star rating scale on the patient survey portion of Medicare’s Hospital Compare website.

Gifford’s history dates to 1903, and it has a three-star rating on the Medicare website. Gifford’s Menig Nursing Home has a five-star rating on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website.

He was “extremely appreciative of the opportunity” to work at Gifford, Woodin said. “It’s probably one of the best small hospitals around, and it’s in great shape.”

Rick Jurgens can be reached at rjurgens@vnews.com or 603-727-3229.